Saturday, March 6, 2010

contributed by Shari-Anne

Jeremy and I just returned from a little holiday to San Francisco where we felt warm sun and read near exotic flowers and sipped coffee with mysterious names. It was a perfect kind of holiday: quiet, rich, and without agenda.

When we arrived home we unpacked our bags and restored objects to their proper home when suddenly I discovered a tiny glass vessel of perfume, a gift from my father, crushed to pieces because of the plastic case shrinking inward. We extrapolated that it must have been the air pressure in the plane that caused the mishap.

I was sad because I knew they had discontinued this particular scent and I had grown so attached to it! It was nice to leave the house on special occasions and smell that smell. It was somehow part of my identity in a way, like my brown eyes or my love of pandas. And it was lost.

I began to reflect on smell and its powerful, yet gentle presence. Historically, and in many Christian traditions today, incense is used in worship. It helps immerse us in and reminds us of God’s holy presence. Our act of worship is also compared to incense:

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelations 5:8

Smell is such an invisible and mysterious thing: we cannot really describe a particular scent or explain what it means to have memories suddenly so vivid because of a brief encounter with a certain aroma. Our sense of smell seems to inhabit our inner world in a way other senses cannot.

What if this scent which follows me, which has become so familiar, so associated with me, so close, so intimate, can be a reminder of God’s constant nearness. And perhaps His presence can summon me to the history of our friendship, the way He stayed so close during thorny times, during lovely times. Perhaps this scent can be a reminder of His beautiful faithfulness.

Lent is a way for me to remember in ways I have forgotten. Lent offers me a kind of respite from the cacophony of sounds and sights and smells that reach to me as I leave my home each day. And the scent of Him is a quiet whisper that reminds me, more profoundly than anything else, who I truly am.

illustration by Beatrice Alemagna

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